England boss Gareth Southgate blasts back at critics who want 'fantasy football' ahead of Serbia clash

England Gareth Southgate Serbia

England boss Gareth Southgate has blasted back at critics ahead of his side's Euro 2024 opener with Serbia

Jack Otway

By Jack Otway

Published: 10/06/2024

- 13:05

The 52-year-old has spoken out as the Three Lions look to win the tournament this summer

England boss Gareth Southgate has blasted back at criticism over his tactics ahead of Sunday's Euro 2024 opener against Serbia.

The 52-year-old has worked wonders with the national side ever since replacing Sam Allardyce eight years ago, with the Three Lions now a force to be reckoned with.

England made the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, before then making the final of Euro 2020.

They narrowly lost to France at the last World Cup, in 2022, with a Harry Kane penalty miss ultimately proving costly.

England Gareth Southgate Serbia

England boss Gareth Southgate has blasted back at critics who want 'fantasy football' ahead of his side's Euro 2024 opener against Serbia


Southgate has, however, been criticised for being too pragmatic.

Yet the 52-year-old, speaking to ESPN, has now defended himself - while also drawing comparisons with France boss Didier Deschamps.

"I know Didier Deschamps has had extreme, unbelievable success with France and gets criticised for the makeup of his teams as well," Southgate said.

"I think people would like fantasy football. Very few teams really play that.

"The biggest coaches in the world have balance to their teams.

"The most successful teams have balance and there will always be debate about that until you put a team out on the pitch and people see whether that balance works or not."

When Southgate took the England job, the Three Lions were still reeling from their shock exit to Iceland at Euro 2016.

There has been significant improvement in the years since, however, which is why England are among the favourites to go all the way this summer.

And Southgate is proud of everything he's achieved so far amid the possibility he could leave once the tournament is done.

"I think there've been different stages [developing] on the route as a team," he said.

"At the start, we felt we had to give the team stability.

"If I go back to Russia, we had an inexperienced defence, less depth in midfield, no wide players in depth to be able to change it consistently.

"But I think we went further than people thought we might in that tournament.

"I guess a lot of those observations would've been around the Euros final and probably some Nations League games where there were a really strange sets of circumstances.

"I don't think anybody would say that was the case in Qatar and I don't think anybody could say that's been the case in the qualification [campaign], [winning] away in Italy, at home against Italy, Ukraine.


England Gareth Southgate

England boss Gareth Southgate is proud of his achievements with the team ahead of Euro 2024


"We haven't always clicked in every one of those games and in an attacking sense, but we haven't held people back.

"There will always be, I think, for any coach, [a thought of] 'OK, what's the ideal balance here of the team in terms of numbers of attacking players?'

"Because if you get killed in transitions, which I see sometimes happens to big teams, then the coaches get killed for being naïve."

England star Kieran Trippier, meanwhile, has lavished praise on Southgate.

The Newcastle star has been a regular for the Three Lions over the years following previous stints at Burnley, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

England Kieran Trippier

England star Kieran Trippier has hailed Gareth Southgate ahead of Euro 2024 this summer


And Trippier is delighted to be one of Southgate's trusted stars as England look to end 58 years of hurt.

"I was thinking, 'Is this like every camp?' Things like that are brilliant to bring people together," he said.

"Going on from the 2018 World Cup, some players come and go [but] Gareth has created what it means to represent England and we all bought into that obviously.

"Gareth deserves huge credit for that.

"Me personally, I've got a lot obviously to thank Gareth for giving me the opportunity to represent my country and having that trust in me as well."

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